Proposed bill requires polling site on campuses

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A California state senator proposed legislation Tuesday that would require at least one polling site on every University of California and California State University campus.

SB 240, authored by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, aims to increase levels of voting among college students by addressing the geographic concerns regarding polling sites. According to the bill’s provisions, county officials would have to locate a polling site within campus boundaries for every election.

The bill, however, does not require community colleges to have polling sites — only that county officials consider placing sites on community college campuses. According to Adam Keigwin, a spokesperson for Yee’s office, the rationale for this is that many community college students live at home and can easily vote at their neighborhood polling site.

“The goal of this bill is to get young people involved in democracy,” Keigwin said. “Anytime you make polling easier for students or young people, they show up.”

County governments are responsible for determining polling locations, which can change depending on the size of the election in question. For smaller elections, counties typically consolidate polling posts, potentially removing sites on university campuses.

Tim Dupuis, interim registrar of voters for Alameda County, said the bill would not decrease poll access for Alameda County voters despite the set number of polling sites per precinct.

UC Student Regent Jonathan Stein expressed enthusiasm for the bill, saying that it would improve student-voter turnout on campuses.

The passage of SB 240 would have little effect on UC Berkeley, as polling sites are nearly always set up on campus. During the 2012 presidential election, polling sites at UC Berkeley were located at campus residences Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 3, Clark Kerr and the Oscar Wilde House.

Even with an abundance of polling sites on campus, peripheral location of sites can make it difficult for some students to cast their votes. For freshman Dustin Marshall, the two-hour wait he experienced during the presidential election was not too much of an issue, but for others, the wait can be a deterrent to casting their votes.

“It was my first time voting, so I was excited,” Marshall said. “I can see how someone might be upset if it wasn’t their first time voting.”

Yee’s office remains optimistic about the bill’s bipartisan support during the legislative process. Sen. Joel Anderson, R-San Diego, an early supporter of the bill, agreed to be named co-author in March if the bill’s provisions continue to apply to all elections, presidential or otherwise.

The bill will have to go through the elections committee in March and, if received favorably, will go to the Senate floor for debate in June.

Contact Christine Tyler and Matt Trejo at [email protected].